For those of you out there who are like me and overthink just about everything, there is a solution. I have no doubt you have heard of the KISS principle. Most of us know it stands for: Keep It Simple Stupid. In fact, the letters KISS do have a number of other meanings such as: Keep It Short and Simple or Keep It Smart and Simple.
Why do we overthink things? David A Clark puts it best: he uses the term “overthink” to refer to an excessive tendency to monitor, evaluate, and attempt to control all types of thought. Overthinkers are not only highly aware of their thoughts, but they also spend a lot of time trying to understand the causes and meaning of their thoughts.
So, it’s almost being like in a causal loop.
Or, in my case, how more times do I have to refine this report until I am happy with it? How many more times do I have to review my draft letter, blog, email etc.
At the heart of KISS is spending the time to simplify the complicated in order to get ahead.
Whenever, I get bogged down and start to regret compiling a particular document it’s because I haven’t planned it out first. I haven’t taken into account what format I will use and what criteria it will contain. It’s at this point I remember to invoke KISS.
Most of the time I use KISS to help me draft a whole range of documents and reports. My KISS principle in this instance is based around being creative. If I’m not bored in preparing the document, then my reader will not be bored either. So, these are my 4 tips:
- Produce your document in a different format.
- As yourself: “Will one page actually do the trick?”
- Draw up a mindmap.
- Find a suitable template!
A document in a different format
This is a technique I picked up from watching Japanese and Korean dramas. Reports and proposals are often shown encapsulated within a presentation e.g. PowerPoint or Keynote.
This in itself makes you keep your document focused and to the point. It works.
Note: This template can also be used for the one page solution, as explained in the next section.
The one page solution
I am sure many of you have been told at work that any document more than a page in length put forward for consideration will be glossed over or even dismissed.
I learn’t very early on this was true.
In essence, what you prepare is a summary that contains the critical information using the following outline:
- Proposal Owner
- One sentence that describes the solution
- Key milestones or touch points
- Two to three sentences outlining how the project will be conducted, the SWOT, other factors.
- Link to Corporate Plan
- This could be the strategic plan, corporate business plan, other plan
- Resources/Financial Impact
- What key resources are required to deliver the project
- What are the measures of success?
- Outline the two or three key risks
How you set out that one page is up to you, but it must make sense to the reader. After all, aren’t one page websites now a thing?
Using a mindmap
A mindmap will help you plan all the elements required for your document. It then acts as a checklist to help make sure you have captured all the necessary information.
Find a template
I am sure many of you do this. There are a number of good resources out there online that have just the “right” template you are looking for.
Templates save on planning out the document and provide good insights on the type of information each section requires.
Templates do not have to be followed as set out. You can modify them to suit you or even just use some of the content.
A final word
Linda often says this to me: your draft is better than most people’s final version. Such a comment always brings me back down to Earth and keeps me grounded. It reminds me that enough is enough and my document is ready to go.
So, what do you overthink?